You may have heard of blood testing for hormones, but you may be less familiar with the benefits of urine hormone testing.
At FUTURE WOMAN we see many women who are suffering from signs of hormone imbalance, burnout and exhaustion, poor sleep, mood changes and low energy. Testing helps us gets to the root cause of your symptoms, allowing your FUTURE WOMAN practitioner to recommend more specific supplements and diet or lifestyle changes to feel better.
We think testing in urine, rather than blood, provides the most accurate and comprehensive picture of your hormone health and here’s why.
Our top 3 reasons we prefer urine testing to blood testing for your hormones
1. It’s pain-free and easy to test at home
We know this is important for many of you. Our hormone tests can easily be done from home by simply urinating on the test strips provided. No need for phlebotomy or finger pricking. Simple and pain-free!
2. Urine testing is more accurate for hormones
Did you know that our hormones pulse? This means that the glands that produce and release hormones actually secrete them in short bursts instead of in a steady stream throughout the day.
With a single blood test you might be capturing your hormone levels at a peak, a trough or somewhere in between. But with urine testing, we can capture a more accurate reading of your hormone levels.
Firstly, this is because a single urine result covers a longer span of time. Urine reflects an average of the hours prior to the test rather than a single moment because the bladder takes around a couple of hours or longer to fill up. Secondly, we use 4 urine samples over the day to allow for the fact that our hormones pulse. This allows us to average out the highs and lows of the day. Compare this to a single blood test and we get a much more accurate picture.
As an example, in the luteal or second phase of the menstrual cycle, progesterone concentrations in blood have been shown to fluctuate so a blood test during this time could show low progesterone when in fact progesterone is at a healthy level, or the other way around.
3. Urine testing gives a more comprehensive view of your hormones
While blood testing can reveal overall sex hormone levels, with urine testing we can look at sex hormones AND their metabolites. And metabolites provide so much valuable information.
What exactly are hormone metabolites?
In their active form, hormones act as chemical messengers to control, facilitate, or trigger various processes in the body. As active hormones complete their work and new hormones are produced, active hormones need to be cleared from the body via the urine. These used hormones are metabolites; they have been metabolised by the body ready for excretion.
Why is it so important to test hormone metabolites?
Hormone metabolites can give us so much more information than just hormone levels alone.
In addition to knowing the amount of hormones your body is producing, you also need to know how those hormones are being used, processed and eliminated. This is where hormone metabolite testing comes in.
Hormone metabolite testing can show whether our hormones are being eliminated safely from the body or building up. We can also see which pathway the hormone is being metabolised down, and some pathways are more beneficial while others can be more harmful. If we struggle to effectively process or metabolise our hormones, then we can get a lot of unwanted symptoms and it can even put us at greater risk for things like breast cancer.
Take our founder Eloise as an example, she was struggling with symptoms we’d typically associate with high estrogen – PMS, sore breasts and heavy, painful periods. But testing revealed her estrogen was actually very low. Her symptoms were instead being caused by poor metabolism of her estrogen. Knowing that meant she could target her symptoms more effectively with supplements that actually worked.
Testing metabolites gives us a much more comprehensive picture and therefore we can suggest much more targeted strategies to help with symptoms – and they’re much more likely to work!
10 reasons to test your hormone metabolites
- We can assess your estrogen detoxification status. The estrogen metabolites show estrogen phase 1 liver detoxification, also known as hydroxylation, and estrogen phase 2 detoxification, also known as methylation. Read more about estrogen detoxification.
- Understanding both estrogen and progesterone metabolites can help us better understand why you’re experiencing PMS, fertility issues and perimenopause symptoms.
- Certain metabolites can be harmful if they are produced in excess. You may have healthy estrogen levels but high 4-OH (a phase 1 metabolite). Estrogen metabolites can assess the risk of estrogen-related cancer risk.
- Metabolites can help us assess your hormone replacement therapy.
- The androgen metabolites help determine the activity of 5a and 5b-reductase. The more androgenic 5a-pathway can be useful to understand when working with symptoms such as cystic acne, female pattern baldness, hirsutism and PCOS. You can read more about the signs and symptoms of PCOS here.
- Free cortisol/cortisone (free cortisol is the active form of the hormone which binds to receptors and turns them on and cortisone is the inactive form) only represent about 1-3% of the total and the metabolites represent most of what has been produced. About 30% of people with low free cortisol overall have elevated levels of metabolised cortisol. Proper assessment of HPA-axis activity requires the free cortisol picture over time (diurnal rhythm) and the total of the metabolites.
- Metabolised cortisol can give us insight into conditions such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism. Metabolised cortisol can be greatly influenced by cases of hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, long-term stress, inflammation, insulin resistance, infection, poor liver function, anorexia, critical illness, and more.
- Dopamine and norepinephrine/epinephrine metabolites provide insight when correlated with symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, depression, motivation, libido, estrogen dominance, and stress.
- Testing metabolites can give us an in-depth picture of why your overall hormones are elevated, low, or point toward specific symptoms.
- Knowing which pathways your hormones are metabolised down can help us to make more personalised and targeted diet, lifestyle and supplement suggestions